Hosting I-League: The impact is Big!

  • Asif M D Hajra
  • Publish Date: Nov 11 2018 8:46PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 11 2018 8:46PM
Hosting I-League: The impact is Big!File Photo

This November the valley hosted its first ever historic I-league match and it was a huge success!

For all those football fans who got the chance to watch Real Kashmir FC’s debut home match played on TRC astroturf ground, the memories of the match would be special. Capacity full crowd sitting on ‘Yousuf Dar stand’, ‘Majeed Kakroo stand’, ‘Shafi Naari stand’ and ‘late Farooq Ahmad stand’ got to watch one of the top clubs– Goan giants Churchill Brothers – grapple with the local giants Real Kashmir. Apart from the sons of the soil in Danish, Hammad and Furu who are fast emerging as new football heroes of the state, the spectators watched foreign players like Khaled, Nova, Krizo, Loveday, Plaza and many others, applying their football skills in a bid to win and gain 3 points for the team.

On Shafi Naari stand, it was the bunch of enthusiastic DPS boys who relentlessly pumped in a lot of sound into the game as they kept chanting names of their new heroes and at times booed the visiting team as well. Across Majeed Kakroo stand, some renowned faces of State cricket and football, all well-settled in the cocktail of spectators enjoyed the game amid some interesting faces on both right and left doing their own critical analysis. A group of foreign tourists including kids and females also joined the audience on Late Farooq stand to watch the match.  

And in the VIP gallery, there was a host of VIPs come to grace the occasion. Even the former CM of the state Omar Abdullah - a die-hard fan of Real Kashmir FC - was on the spectators list.

Among this wide array of spectators, the quality of football played on ground was good, and the atmosphere around was amazing!

But hosting I-League was not only about quality football, it has had many positive ramifications as well.

With the visiting team along with the crew well-placed in the hotels, who enjoyed a few preparatory training sessions as well, host city Srinagar has already increased its profile among the visitors and prospective tourists as a safe destination to visit and enjoy football in the picturistique astroturf ground. And as the tournament progresses, all the I-League will have to visit the city to face Real Kashmir in its home matches and it goes without saying that the frequency of visits by outside state teams would add to the confidence among prospective tourists and visitors to the valley.

Hosting I-League has actually added to the short-term tourist inflow into the valley, albeit miniscule in numbers. Visiting team and crew, media persons etc. who stayed here for a week did inject some money into the economy by way of spending on hotel bills, food bills, shopping (if any) etc. Once hotelier has a guest, the sovereign will collect taxes.

Given the fact that all I-League matches are telecast live by Star Sports network, for a place like Kashmir valley with a low-safety image, hosting I-League has become a way to gain acceptance as a safe destiny.

Since I-League requires benchmark infrastructure, hosting it has led to some capital investment by the Government for augmenting the TRC astroturf. Apart from fencing, additional blocks which include change rooms, bath rooms, media rooms etc. have come up on the home ground. In fact, it has given a facelift to the precious astroturf ground which not only caters to I-League, but a host of all major football events of the valley. And with every passing match, more facilities and maintenance programmes are expected to be set in place. In fact, with a long-term view, it would require yearly provisioning for maintenance of TRC ground which is a huge asset for all stakeholders.

As capital investment and creation of jobs/skill development go hand in hand, I-League has helped, albeit to an insignificant extent, to create some job opportunities and skill development as well. On the match day, young men volunteering the security checks and guiding the visitors to proper seats/stands gave a sense of new avenues opening up for youth. Event managers, match commissioners, referees, caterers, physios etc., there are many ancillary career options available in football apart from being a footballer. Visiting referee teams depict the knowledge gap in the existing team of local referees who otherwise could have handled the match well. Even if it was a matter of neutrality, the local referees need to be skilled enough to qualify to act as referees for other I-League matches and that presents more job/skill development opportunities.

Change route. As we enter the TRC ground, one witnesses a few bicycles, all laden with a large willow basket. Zoom in and it is the ‘Kakav Maaz’, as the vendors would call it - an indigenous veg roll – lawaas (a kind of local bread) with meshed chickpeas and zaamdoad tchaetiin (curd chatni). This Rs. 10 each roll, a cheap source of rescue from hunger, reminds everyone of school and college days. While on regular matches one or two ‘Kakav Maaz’ seller(s) would be seen at the entrance eagerly waiting for another customer, I-League has attracted a variety of vendors to the venue and there has been a many fold increase in their sales and so has their income.                                 

Hosting I-League has not only contributed to the game of football in the Valley, it has made positive contribution to its economy as well. In fact, the impact of I-League is big!